Father, Forgive Them
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
While he was being crucified, Jesus said several things. These are recorded in the biblical Gospels. When you take them together, you end up with seven statements of Jesus from the cross. These are often called “The Seven Last Words.”
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” is the first word. Here, Jesus asked his Heavenly Father to forgive those who were crucifying him. He added that they were ignorant of what was really happening. They believed they were executing a criminal, a rebel, a blasphemer. They had no idea that they were crucifying the true Son of God. They could not imagine that what they were doing was in any way related to the salvation of the world.
Of course, the grounds for the forgiveness of those who crucified Jesus was not their ignorance. Rather, it was the grace, mercy, and love of God. Ironically, these very attributes of God provide the real reason Jesus was hanging on a cross. Yes, he had been put there under the authority of Pontius Pilate. But Jesus was no victim. He chose the cross, believing that in this way he would fulfill his destiny as the Messiah and Savior of the world. Because Jesus was crucified, those who crucified him could be forgiven.
And so can you and I. Though we do not literally crucify Jesus, in a sense, we put him on the cross through our sin. We stand among those in need of forgiveness. And we receive this forgiveness, not because we act in ignorance, not because we do anything to deserve it, but because of God’s grace, mercy, and love . . . that which was revealed in the cross.
Thus, it is fitting that the first word of Jesus from the cross is a word of forgiveness. May you live today in the reality of the forgiveness you have in Christ!
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you live as if God has truly forgiven you for your sins? If you were to have full assurance of your forgiveness in Christ, what difference would this make in the way you live today?
PRAYER: Gracious, merciful, loving God, how I thank you for the sacrifice of Christ. How I thank you for the forgiveness he offered, first, to those who crucified him, and then to all who are in need of forgiveness, including me. How I thank you for the freedom I can know because you have forgiveness. May I use this freedom, not to sin more, but to live my whole life for you.
All praise and glory be to you, gracious, merciful, loving God! Amen.
P.S. from Mark: I have written a series of devotions on the Seven Last Words of Christ. They are intended for Holy Week, but are just as useful in Advent. These devotions include some of my wife’s marvelous watercolor paintings of the Stations of the Cross.
P.P.S. from Mark: I have put up on my blog some photos of the places where Christians believe Jesus was crucified. There are two primary locations in Jerusalem that are held to be the actual place of the crucifixion. You can see both of these in my collection of photos of Jerusalem.